The US and its European allies are responsible for MKO’s current state of living in limbo
In his briefing of November 29 to the Security Council, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for Iraq, Mr. Martin Kobler, stated: “I should like to take this opportunity to reiterate the Secretary-General’s appeal to Member States to offer resettlement opportunities to former residents of Camp Ashraf. Without such an undertaking, there can be no sustainable solution for the residents.”
The statement is clearly taken to imply that, despite unconfirmed rumors, no country has so far announced readiness to accept the members of Mojahedin Khalq Organization (MKO, MEK, PMOI, NCR) as refugees. The unanimous reluctance to receive MKO is in fact a negative response to the call for a durable and workable solution to the issue of residents’ resettlement. Although it has led the process to a standstill, at the first look it seems it is MKO that benefits the situation most of all as it never intended to leave Iraq and is doing its best, through a widespread propaganda, to grab at a chance of turning the transitory camp into a permanent camp of refugees. The consequence, however, might lead to a serious crisis hard to handle since the Iraqi government is decisive to banish the group. But the basic question that goes unanswered is why countries resist letting MKO on their soil?
For sure, there are sound reasons behind this universal unwillingness. A first group of these countries, including the US and European countries, make sure to keep in with MKO while withdraw to offer any refugee opportunities to have them on their soil. It is simplistic to think that their refusal is just for considering MKO a security threat, a fact that they never deny. But for a number of political justifications, these countries prefer to convince, and if possible force, the Iraqi government prolong group’s stay there. Having the military option still on the table, the US and its allies look at the group as a multi-purpose tool against Iran as used in Saddam’s era. However, MKO has already proved to be a working instrument where other imposed political solutions fail to work; MKO may play the role of one of many sticks for these countries’ resort to the policy of carrot-and-stick when engaging in talks to resolve Iran nuclear issue. The removal of MKO from the terrorist list by these countries has been in line with the same policy; for the designation of foreign terrorist organizations and their removal have become a highly politicized exercise in which some groups are just designated to be used as political approaches. In fact, there is really no change in the nature of the relations between MKO and these Western countries before and after its designation.
A second group of countries are concerned about the political consequences of letting MKO on their soil. Before allowing MKO as refugees, these countries should consider the advantages and disadvantages as there would possibly be a darkened and even a suspended diplomatic relation with the Islamic Republic. Of course, for a country like Israel it makes no difference but no doubt, it has to pay big prices for a direct and open alliance with the notorious group it has long tried to deny any collaboration. However, these countries political prescription for MKO is not different from the first group; MKO continue its living-in-limbo style residence in Iraq for the present.
The temporary accommodation is typically secure, suitable and affordable for MKO under the supervision and monitoring of the UN both for the relocation and the situation in the temporary camp around the clock. The UNHCR has a team at the camp to carry out the verifications for refugee status, a futile attempt so far since no third country has offered a suggestion. Within its set framework of responsibility, UN can do nothing beyond urging the Iraqi government to tolerate the current situation to find the “sustainable solution for the residents”.
The fact is that neither the UN nor its Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Iraq anticipated such a stalemate in the issue of MKO and Ashraf residents. At first presumed to be a decisive solution to resettlement of residents in third countries, the relocation remains a difficult challenge itself. No effort will be productive to tackle with the challenge unless the US and its European allies make a small change in their political perspective for humanitarian causes.